Good intentions and passionate feelings are sometimes the enemy of vivid and coherent storytelling, as this movie, based on the real-life experiences of its writer/director, demonstrates. Sometimes the person who lived through it is just too close to realize what makes a life a story.
The story here is about the redemptive romance between a rich kid sent to the Marines after a drunken teenage prank ends in tragedy and a young movie star struggling with mental illness. But the script is cluttered with too many details that don’t add anything and missing too many details that would. In describing the movie to someone, I mistakenly called it “Sidetracked,” which, come to think of it, might be an apter title.
Jonathan Tucker plays Mark Deloach, a prep schooler with a harsh father (Joe Mantegna) and a little sister who won’t take off her late mother’s mink stole. After a drunk driving accident that causes serious injury, he is sent off to join the Marines to straighten him out.
He meets a beautiful movie star who is struggling with schizophrenia (Rachel Leigh Cook). Caring for her gives him a reason to become responsible. Caring for him gives her a reason to become healthy.
All of this sounds like a movie. In fact, it sounds like many movies we’ve already seen and will see again. But this one, for all its good intentions, loses the trees of its own story in a forest of distracting details.
Parents should know that the movie has extremely strong language, explicit sexual references and situations, tense and upsetting confrontations, and serious injuries from a car accident and (offscreen) battle violence. A strength of the movie is the sympathetic (though unrealistic) portrayal of mental illness.
Families who see this movie should talk about why Mark and Dori meant so much to each other. They may also want to talk about family members or friends who have struggled with mental illness.
Families who enjoy this movie will also appreciate An Officer and a Gentleman and David and Lisa.